Full Body Scanners

I was starting to be okay with this description of a whole body imaging  Transportation Security Administration plans to implement.

One, there’s technology that allows the body to be transmuted into merely a cartoon stick figure. So it’s not as if anyone’s genitalia or private parts are being revealed. Instead, it’s just an outline of the body. And then, as I say, anything odd attached to the body becomes readily apparent. (Op-Ed: Security Measures Should Be More Invasive : NPR)

Then I saw images online of what a TSA technician would see. Sadly, what I saw was not stick figures but naked bodies with obscured faces and lines where clothes hug the body. A blurred face doesn’t make me more comfortable. I don’t use dressing rooms in stores specifically because places are known to use cameras in the rooms. I’d rather take the item back than run across the possibility of being viewed in just my underwear, so being viewed naked is disconcerting.

Whether the distance of the person viewing me naked is 2 feet away or 20,000 miles makes extremely little difference to me. Not being able to see the expression of the person viewing raises the creepiness factor. Of course, I went to college at a time when really creepy guys would hang out in the back corner computer labs looking a pictures of naked women and disturbed everyone in the building. My bag was swabbed by one of those people the last time I flew out of that airport.

The images I saw were all older than April 2009, so it is possible new software absolves the nudity issue. This quote makes it sound like there are things which can be done to eliminate the nudity issue and may be what the first quote intended. I only found 4 different images and none matched my idea of a stick figure or stylized.

New software, however, eliminates that problem [nudity of minors is illegal] by projecting a stylized image rather than an actual picture onto a computer screen, highlighting the area of the body where objects are concealed in pockets or under the clothing. Dutch to use full body scanners for US flights

I’ve heard various things about how long the images are stored: not at all, 12 hours, and 3 days. So I fully expect in 2010 to hear about a scandal of pictures of people from these machines getting posted online. In Britain there was a question whether these images taken of minors violates the law despite government officials claiming the images being legal as they are not actually images.

One technology uses terahertz radiation which supposedly will detect the spectrograph of chemicals. Such a thing could detect explosives or illegal drugs.

More technology doesn’t help so much as passing along warnings about threats. This guy’s father told the right people his son was a threat. Yet he wasn’t put on the no-fly list. A 5 year olds are got searched for having the same name as someone on the no-fly list.

1 comment

  1. While I can quite understand the trepidation about having an anonymous person viewing your naked body, and for the most part I agree, what I don’t quite grasp is why there is such a furor over the chinks in the security systems on day then the in the next breath some of the same people will complain about the measures that are implemented to close the gaps.

    Security is something that is really just a theory. There is never going to be a fool-proof system and you have to take the good with the bad. Over the last few years many of my fellow liberals have repeated the Benjamin Franklin quote “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Personally I feel that a movie line works better. In the movie “In The Line of Fire,” John Malkovich’s character Mitch Leary said “John F. Kennedy said all someone needs is a willingness to trade his life for the President’s, right?”

    This line really sums it all up. We can attempt to make our lives as secure as possible, but as long as someone has the conviction to trade their life for that of another we are always going to be vulnerable. All we can hope to do is to minimize the number of vectors that such a person has access to.

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